Saturday, 1 April 2017

Bajadera where tech meets ballet

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Forget phone apps like Dutch National Ballet's Bounden (see Bounden - Something that appeals to my Interests in Technology and Dance 17 Dec 2013). Virtual reality ballet is old hat (see Pacific Northwest Ballet experiments with Virtual Reality 27 March 2017). To see the real potential of technology and ballet you need to visit Leeds or San Diego next Spring to see the world's first simultaneous performance of the same ballet from two venues 6,000 miles apart.

How can that be possible?

"Simple!" Smiles Bharatnatyam Bhatti, Chief Technical Officer, of Silicon Valley startup Pygmalion Pixels. "We project a lifelike image of a dancer onto the stage of a theatre here in Californa and the identical picture at the same time onto the stage of a theatre over there in Leeds, England."

Bhatti, originally from Hyderabad developed an interest in ballet while researching for his PhD on 3D imaging technology at Stanford.  "Did you know that there is actually a ballet set near my hometown" he added. "I think it is called La Bayadere, or something like that."

The technology involves taking multiple pictures of real, live, dancers and somehow running them through some special software which feeds apparatus that projects 3D images onto the stage.  The software allows a choreographer to get the images to do superhuman feats like 12-foot jumps or 128 fouettés.

Bhatti had heard that there were two premier dancers from Leeds in Southern California, Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt, and invited them to take part in his project.  "Toby was really impressed when I showed hm a lifelike image of himself effortlessly doing any number of tours en l'air."

Toby and Martha told their former artistic director, David Nixon, about this technology and he came on board from the start. "David has created a whole new ballet based on that ballet I was telling you about but set somewhere here out west," said Bhatti. "I think he is calling it Bajadera which I've googled and turns out to be some sort of candy from Croatia but it sounds kinda Spanish like Baja California."

The story goes that Solly, a deputy sheriff, has just shot some desperadoes at a showdown in Tombstone. He loves Nikki,  a dancing girl in the Last Trump Saloon but the sheriff, Mr Gamzatti, has other ideas. His daughter is in love with Solly and has persuaded her father to make Solly an offer that he just can't refuse  - if you get my meaning. Adding to the complexity, the town's preacher has the hots for Nikki but she is just not interested in hm. Naturally, Nikki is not too happy about Solly's forthcoming marriage and attacks Miss Gamzatti with a knife. She says nothing at the time but vows to get her own back by planting a rattlesnake in a bouquet of flowers.

The wedding goes ahead in the Last Trump Saloon. The festivities begin with Donald, an orange coloured robot performing a jerky dance. Nikki is bitten by the snake. The preacher offers her serum that can save her life but she refuses it indicating that life without Solly just isn't worth living.  Just before Solly and Miss Gamzatti exchange vows the town is hit by an earthquake and the saloon is destroyed.

Solly chews on some magic mushroom and sees 246 computer generated images of Nikki descending a ramp doing tendus and arabesques.  There are solos by three of those images and finally Solly imagines himself dancing with Nikki again. In his narcotic induced stupor, Solly allows himself to be bitten by the rattlesnake that had been disturned by the earthquake and finds himself soaring into the afterlife looking for Nikki.

"So what do you think?" asked Bhatti. "Worlds fail me" I reply. "Toi, toi and chookas to everyone involved. Just let me know when it is all over."

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